Arsenal v Hammers: Lessons From the Second Half – It is a Load of Chocolate!

I have now watched the second half again and have a better picture of how Arsenal turned things round.

First and for all, we needed a break and we got it on our own merit: two forward passes, first by Granit and then by his fellow midfielder Torreira, and a good run and coolly executed low to ground cross by Kola found Martinelli, who took the opportunity like a 28 year old striker in his prime. Boom 1-0. To be fair it came out of nowhere, but it cannot be called a lucky break. The Hammers were getting tired and we used the available space really well.. and Martinelli is a fearless and ambitious Gem alright!

Freddie after the game (BBC):

“In the first half we were slow and lethargic, we didn’t move or run, and that comes from low confidence but in the second half it was how we wanted to play.
“I hope this changes the mood and the players looked happy in the dressing room. It’s been tough for them, they have been living under enormous pressure and you see it in their performances.”

After that, we just did not look back. Our confidence was back, hallelujah! We kept it tight at the back and all of a sudden our players started the pass the ball around with speed, precision and attacking intent. Our attackers came much closer to the midfield and now Xhaka and Torreira had much better passing opportunities. And guess what, they both started to pass much, much better. Mesut was constantly available and keen to drive forward; Martinelli, Pepe and Auba moved all over the pitch and often close to the midfield to make themselves available. That made all the difference.

See the source image

As a team, and this is something Emery has created and is not easy to shift,  we don’t play tight enough; we are a team of three units with our attackers too disconnected from midfield, which leaves the latter which so much to do. No wonder we struggled in recent months, but once we had our goal this changed. We need to play as a dense, compact unit, a snickers bar, and not as a stretched out curly-wurly positioned all over the pitch. That is the only way to create better passing opportunities and be less vulnerable to breaks. Defend as a unit, boss the midfield as a unit, create chances a unit.

See the source image

Regarding the defence, as per previous post, we did much better than in recent games. Both Sok and Chambers bossed the box in the air and Xhaka and Torreira did not allow much space in front of our ‘D’. Our full backs were tight and did not allow many crosses into the box; and our wingers supported our defence throughout the game. That was good to see.

My final point, and invite you to give us your views, is regarding the hardest part for all of us to witness: us playing out of the back. This can only work if we have enough passing opportunities (and for this we need to play much more compact). Both Sok and Chambers are limited passers, Xhaka and Torreira are not great in dribbling themselves free with the ball, which is sometimes required, and we need to dare to pass in between the lines rather than sideways or back most of the time. We need to play our Wengeresque triangles again – where are they?!

It clearly is not working and especially against the blue Mancs on Sunday we need to avoid it at all cost. I wished we kept Giroud so we have a decent GK to Forward option, but kicking it into a dense midfield may be our best way of avoiding the blood-pressure-raising, suicidal building the game up from the back, going forward.

This was a much needed and good win but lessons will have to be taken from this and applied rigorously going forward. Stick with these players and tweak the tactics, Freddie. You can do it.

By TotalArsenal.

24 thoughts on “Arsenal v Hammers: Lessons From the Second Half – It is a Load of Chocolate!

  • Please please please Get rid of Xhaka. He is too slow can’t run or tackle. If we fail to address this vital part of the team, the win against a pathetic West Ham, will just be papering over a gaping chasm

  • Thanks TA! I did enjoy it. Probably more– watching it with outcome known. 😁

    Torriera. With his best Cazorla impersonation. On all three goal-bound attacks.
    Seriously. See if you can find the highlights with build-up. Each of the speedy bursts into the Hammers’ final 18 were enabled by a Torriera pass that found its way through and behind West Ham’s midfield defenders (Noble and Rice). No one will mistake Lucas Torriera’s overall toolkit for that of Santi Cazorla’s. Though on the day, LT’s got the job done with similar-style results.

    Martinelli. The dancer. He should be a fixture in the XI now. He changed the dynamic of the match with his first-ever PL goal. Impressed with his stamina as well. He should be the tip of the spear chasing on defense. Gabriel now has 8 goals in just 7 starts for the club in all comps. Bingo. We have a winner.


  • Since 17HT didn’t get to see it? Have an analogy that likely only he (or another Ultimate player) might grasp fully– but it will give him a visual on the first half.

    Arsenal didn’t look bad for the first 40 minutes. Many would call the ball movement languid. Overly cautious. What it looked like in Ultimate terms? Was an O working upwind versus a 3-2-2 zone (say a stiff 18-20mph wind in your face). We worked the disc… um, the ball around the perimeter– and on occasion advanced up either side– only to swing it back and around– making the Hammers chase it. Seemed the instructions were similar to when you did make a pass to a ‘deep’ player– he would dump the disc to a handler (avoiding a riskier pass) to continue a methodical Zone O march upfield. Only that– those tactics don’t work in football!

    The difference in the 2nd-half were the efforts of Torriera receiving or carrying the ball from the back for some distances, and quickly– bypassing a surrendering West Ham midfield.

    Arsenal found the gaps in the cup– and went through and past the middle-middle. 😉


  • “We need to play as a dense, compact unit, a snickers bar…” 👍😀 We want our chocolate back! We want our chocolate back!

  • I’m very happy with our 2nd half performance, that is how we need to continue, especially with our next 8 games where we play 4 of the top Premier League clubs.

    Freddie has his work cut out and our home supporters need to be at on their very best behaviour as 5 out of the 8 games are at home.

    Man City H
    Everton A
    Bournemouth H
    Chelsea A
    Man United H
    Crystal Palace A
    Sheffield U H
    Chelsea H

  • “Is anybody working today in France?”:
    hi TA;
    I, for one, was not (just came back from today’s march, actually) … how could i? i’m an activist in Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s “La France Insoumise”, so i’m calling on other people to go on strike, i’d feel very guilty not to myself
    too bad i’ve no picture to prove it, but – believe or not , then – i marched with my brand new red and white arsenal beanie, which had just been sent to me, as a red member, and i had made myself a sign: “VAR decision: Macron Out”
    looking forward to Thursday, something’s clicked yesterday
    as for gabe, the club might indeed have struck the deal of the century … what a kid!!

  • I also watched the second half last night. I did see good points that deserves to be mentioned:

    1. It is a moment of fire that Tor and Kola found space on the left wing and gaps in defense and we scored the goal that changed the way we play.

    2. After that we played much faster and had more intent, and 3 goals in 10 minutes changed the match completely.

    3. Before the equalising goal we were positioned far from each other, and Ozil tried but the players were just too far apart for him to make any decisive passes forward.

    4. Ozil had 2 wonderful passes for the second and third goals. Now the team is playing in a more compact way and eager to have a go at the Hammers, who themselves had been hammered by us.

    5. After that we did well to see out the game while also trying to venture forward for the fourth goal. The compact formation suited us better than leaving spaces for the opposition.

    6. Yesterday’s commentary on nbc (i watched it on lasthl) mentioned that both the teams were inviting each other to attack while playing on the counter. That was what we did before the Martinelli goal. After that everything changed.

    A good start for the lads, and a shot in the arm for them too. I hope we do a manu** and win the game against the run of play.

    Maybe the international managers can tell the Gunners that they will only be chosen when they win against citeh?

  • I guess many do not know that Torreira was an attacking midfielder before he converted to a DM in Italy. As Xhaka hardly ventures forward (doesn’t suit him) Torreira must incorporate the B2B in his role. He should be encouraged to be attempting more line breaking passes more so as we have fast direct forward men (Auba, Martnelli, Pepe and Laca). We need quicker transitions to bring the best out of our forward men.

    One comment I keep forgetting to make is that Kola has improved a lot with his defending. Defensively I give him the edge over Tierney but the latter’s delivery into the box is bit more effective.

    Ozil is vital to this team. Yes I have talked about quick transitions but that does not equate to hitting one’s head against the brick wall. Without Ozil we seem unable to pull the opposing team’s shape apart leaving us stuck in possession in our half. Ozil understands the movements with or without the ball that opens up the opposing team. This is visible mostly to trained eyes. Emery was too attracted to sweat as a creative force and so couldn’t appreciate the hard-to-see Ozil’s contributions.

    Pepe should be seen, tactically speaking, as a striker roughly in the inside right position. This is partly due to the fact that his defensive contribution is poor and therefore needs a structure around him that compensates for that. It looks to me that the modern split striker is the way for us to go in the numerous variants of the 4:4:2. With split strikers in the inside positions (right and left), opposing full backs worry bombing forward. The central defenders are conflicted between being dragged apart to police the strikers or leaving the strikers unattended to, to protect the centre. We shouldn’t be deceived, even when we set up in a 4:2:3:1, the personnel we have tend to assumes variants of the 4:4:2 structure.

  • Ancelotti’s record against other big managers in Premier League:

    -Klopp 3-1-2,
    -Guardiola 2-0-0,
    -Mourinho 2-0-3.

    His record against Klopp is particularly impressive as he has beaten almost unbeatable Klopp’s Liverpool twice in space of a year and took a point at Anfield. Both of his victories v Guardiola happened in 2013-14 when Real thrashed Bayern 4-0 in Munich after 1-0 in Madrid.

  • Jw1, Ancelotti will only be a short term fix. Under Fred we see glimpses of Wengerball and we did well under less pressure.

    Wenger let the team play their way and not enforce certain tactics in favour of dynamic play, and that’s what the doctor ordered.

  • TA, I enjoyed the 8 observations as well this lessons – as usual.

    What disappoint me, is the constant bias against Xhaka, though.
    I was playing bridge at the time of the game, so I read the reviews and ratings before I could see the highlights. From the articles/posts it clearly seemed that Xhaka cost us a goal (again):
    – “Terrible from the former club captain. Absolutely bottled a header which lead to the goal and played some suicidal cross-field passes” (Daily Star)
    – “Granit Xhaka – 3 – Terrible performance from the former Arsenal skipper. Ducked out of the way for Ogbonna’s goal and passing radar was off all night.” (Express)
    – “Xhaka 2: Appalling performance! Constantly gave the ball away, and cowardly cost us a goal.” (Just Arsenal)
    – “I have no idea how people even think he is remotely average. A terrible footballer, slow in the mind and foot, over-reliant on his left foot, too ponderous to do everything, never actually shows for the ball in midfield, rarely passes forwards. Quite frankly, sh*t. If Arsenal could get a fiver for him, they should take it.” (Pain in the Arsenal – I seriously hate this cretin A.D.)

    So you can see, it is not only the general bias from the old school commentators, that stemmed from the Wenger era, where Arsene often fielded an Enlishman-free starting XI, thus leaned towards Tottenham and Liverpool with plenty of good old British players. But even Arsenal blogs are blaming Granit. Maybe it’s only my problem that I find hate posts and comments destructive from the entire team’s point of view (and while critics are always welcome, I despise haters), but the tragic part is not them not being nice, but them not being right. I’ve seen the highlights from YT clips and the club’s website, and it is painfully obvious, that Xhaka didn’t cost us a goal. He wasn’t tasked to man-mark Ogbonna (though I admit I didn’t fully capture the defensive concept: it seemed somewhere between zonal and man-marking), he didn’t just walk around, nor did he withdraw from an easy challenge. Hi didn’t get there in time (which wasn’t his one and only duty), and West Ham were still lucky, as without the deflection on AMN (which wasn’t his fault either) Leno would have surely saved the header.

    People blaming Xhaka for that goal are either seriously stupid or extremely suggestible. I mean how bad must the supporter morale be, where Mirror has to rescue the day: “Arsenal are better with him (honest). Generally solid.” I’m not even mentioning that Tierney also received ratings of 3 from multiple bloggers. He was playing 27 minutes in a – at that time – 0:0 game, for Pete’s sake.
    Can we replace some of the supporters, please?

  • Pb, good comment and you know I fully agree with you. Most don’t get Xhaka and we don’t deserve him. There is no doubt that he will leave next year and play in Italy or Germany and no doubt we will see him in the CL whereas our boys will linger in the EL at best (just like Coquelin and Gabriel…). It is infuriating to read the anti-Xhaka comments as he is just what we need in midfield (but with a quality DM which we can argue Torreira is or is not). I watched Ajax v Valencia yesterday and the home team really missed a Xhaka type. He is not of the Frenkie de Jong quality but then not many are, but he would still set the tempo and keep the overview, which was badly missed last night.

    The way Xhaka gets treated by some fans – note ALL managers always want to play the Swiss Maestro – makes it extra hard to follow our team at the moment. 😦

  • Particularly enjoy any post which has a chocolate analogy and this one has a few!

    I think Xhaka is important to our team but he was poor vs WHU. Even the best have bad games and there were times when I was infuriated with the lackadaisical nature of some of his play.

    I am worried about the timimg of the sacking/departure of Ancelloti – he will be very attractive to the Arsenal suits especially given the arrival of Merinho in North London

  • Find myself ambivalent regarding Xhaka Drama.
    I’d felt in his first two seasons he was underwhelming and error-prone. Though for the last 3 months of that 2nd year– he improved defensively and cut the errors to a norm. I’m still not pleased with his reaction that caused him to be relieved of the captaincy. Period.

    Like Erik– I felt that Granit had a subpar performance vs WHU. Not going to criticize– though I felt he might have been more physical in his attempt to head the ball. But for some reason — and more than once– it was Torriera assigned to try to stymie the twice-as-large-as-he-is Ogbonna on corners. That’s your WTF in that scenario– not Xhaka sacrificing himself in front of a charging bull-moose centerback. Later, he took a ball-in-the-face that wrang his bell pretty good. Hard to reach a requisite level of focus after one of those.

    One of the NBCSN announcers made a comment later in the broadcast after Calum Chambers HAD been in a heading collision– to the effect of: ‘You have to be willing to stick your head in at times.’ A bit of old-school stoicism– but I get the gist. Glad Chambers was OK– but I was proud– to see him stick his head in there!

    BTW? I think Chambers acquitted himself quite well. He’s jumped up the depth chart to be the starter at right-centerback as far as I’m concerned.


  • Unai Emery in discussions with Everton.
    Sure he has all of their individual players’ dossiers–
    Coil-bound, with frosted mylar covers too. 💤💤💤


  • Erik, not sure lackadaisical is the correct word. He uses his head a lot and sometimes he does not act quick enough which can lead to a mistake. That is typical for a organiser type of player – same happened to the BFG now and again. It will not happen as much to the likes of Koz and Chambers as they are more instinctive players. We need both kind of players and get the balance right between them.

    Erik, would you like to write a post about the pros and cons of Ancelotti as our manager?

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